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Are Fans Right To Boo Their Players?

Chris Baird (Fulham) tackles Carlton Cole (West Ham) 02/05/10 Fulham v West Ham (3-2) Barclays Premier League at Craven Cottage, London UK (Photo by Rob Munro) Photo via Newscom

After watching his forlorn West Ham United side lose 3-1 against Bolton Wanderers this weekend, manager Avram Grant slammed the fans who booed their penalty-missing striker Carlton Cole. Whilst not possessing the goal-getting attributes of Wayne Rooney or Darren Bent, Cole has been a valuable striker for the Hammers, with 20 goals in 57 league games for the club in the last two seasons.

West Ham seem unable to find another alternative to Cole or a partner for him, with the previously promising Freddie Sears flattering to deceive and other youngsters such as Zavon Hines and Frank Nouble still lacking in experience. Benni McCarthy has also signed from Blackburn Rovers, but has failed to net in his first six league games. So with this in mind, does Cole deserve a beasting from his own fans after finding his feet in East London and gaining England caps?

The former Chelsea man was jeered after a nervy performance in which he repeatedly finished tamely when in front of goal. Cole pelted his spot-kick low and straight down the middle of Jussi Jaaskelainen’s goal, resulting in a routine stop for the Bolton goalkeeper. To be fair, he had a shocker. Today was a day in which nothing was going to go Cole’s or West Ham’s way. In a season lasting nine months, there will be matches where the Gods are shining against one team.

Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboue was memorably jeered when he was substituted during Arsenal’s unconvincing win over Wigan Athletic in December 2008. The Ivory Coast international was reduced to tears after trudging off the pitch on his return from a knee injury. Considering his team won, surely the fans’ abuse was unwarranted. Eboue has of course recovered and is now a firm favourite at The Emirates.

With this in mind, it is clear that players’ commitment and performance levels are tapped upon by fans. Cole’s perceived lack of effort and technique in crucial moments against Wigan was bemoaned by sections of Hammers fans on internet forums after the match, and the fans’ reaction was both condemned and applauded on radio talk shows.

Players at all levels encounter wildly expectant fans. Since England’s tumultuous collapse against Germany at the World Cup, many of England’s biggest names have been criticised. There has been much debate into why the likes of Rooney and Frank Lampard did not perform in South Africa after such electrifying form at club level.

Tensions run very high in the stands and every emotion is multiplied when the stakes are high. West Ham look to be a club in freefall, and only the players themselves can know whether they are giving 100%. However, should players be subjected to booing from their own fans?


It’s no secret that footballers earn a handsome wage in these difficult economic struggles, so some fans may see this as more responsibility for players to shoulder. Many fans fork out great amounts of money for season tickets. They have worked hard all week earning money for that long awaited Saturday afternoon, so surely they have a right to condemn their own players when they are losing. Fans have obviously seen dreadful signings come and go, but they will only support one team in a lifetime, whereas players could turn out for nine or ten teams in a career. Therefore fans may sometimes think their loyalty and passion is not duplicated by the players.


A more dignified way for fans to show their feelings could be to vote with their feet. Many times each Saturday, supporters on the end of a thumping are shown streaming into the concourses after 85 minutes. Finishing the match with half of the stands empty would surely send players a message. Certain supporters may feel that if you are only going to boo a player, you may as well stay home as you are not actively backing your team. Things should be put into perspective as well. West Ham have endured a torrid start to the season, but have only played two games. There are 36 games left and the Londoners still have plenty of chances to scale the table.

Do you agree with the treatment of Carlton Cole? How do you feel about the booing of former players who have moved to rivals? Have you ever been in the stands when fans are hurling abuse at their own player? Do you think fans are sometimes too deluded with expectations?

Tell the website about your experiences of this and your opinions. The comments system is here for you to create debate and have your say.

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  1. Ethan

    August 23, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    I think fans have a definite right to boo. It comes with the territory, and any player, regardless of the sport, who is shocked or surprised to hear his hometown fans booing is an idiot. The idea of leaving early to express your dissatisfaction in your club is preposterous. As the writer points out, a lot of fans work hard to afford their tickets, and so, the suggested method of displaying your disgust is to not get your money’s worth? Huh?

  2. Menjol de Almeida Neto

    August 23, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Hi everybody, it´s the first time I comment here. I´m brazilian, so I`m sorry for my bad english… This topic is very good and curious. I´m a supporter of Palmeiras, a brazilian team. Recently we lost our best player, Diego Souza, because a strange reaction of the player. He was booed during a game and made a obscene gesture to the stands, our supporters. As punition he no longer wore our shirt, and now is in a rival club, Atletico-MG. I really disagree with booing the players, because I think they are under a lot of pressure, and problably they are just trying to right, not the contrary. It´s a polemic situation, but sometimes the silence can be the best answer.

    • Sir Guy

      August 23, 2010 at 4:03 pm

      Menjol de Almeida Neto—-Your English is good enough to get your point across. Welcome to the site.

    • Rob McCluskey

      August 23, 2010 at 6:38 pm

      I can see your point, sometimes booing can make the situation worse.

      I think it is unavoidable though, it’s a universal expression to show disapprovement.

      It’s what you feel like doing to let someone know they’re not meeting expectations.

  3. CTBlues

    August 23, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Being from the northeast (US) I must be for booing. That is how we let the players know they are not performing. I was watching the first game Lance Berkman played at Yankees Stadium as a Yankee a few weeks ago and he only been with the team for a few days and wasn’t doing well at all, I believe he was like 0 for 5 and when he grounded out or struck out the crowd just let him have it. He was never treated like that in the many years he was with the Houston Astros, but he was playing for the Yankees not the Astros more is expected of you when you put on those pinstripes. Well the next day he played and he went 2 for 3 with 2 doubles and 2 or 3 RBIs.

  4. Mike in Idaho

    August 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    I say booing your own players is fine when warranted, they are big boys who make big paychecks and taking heat and dealing with pressure is part of the job description for a football player. You pay the money for a ticket, you can boo and cheer whoever you like.

  5. Rob McCluskey

    August 23, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Nah, I never agree with leaving a match early, I just don’t like the idea of giving up on your team (or those that attempt to “beat the traffic”)

    If you do have a team thats putting in absolutley no effort though then why not let them know they’re playing terrible and aren’t showing that they care?

  6. Sir Guy

    August 23, 2010 at 11:36 am

    It comes with the territory.

    If Mike Schmidt, a sure Hall of Famer even then, can be booed by his own fans in Philly, then no professional athlete in any sport should feel particularly abused or put upon by the boobirds.

  7. Rob

    August 23, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Yeah, I’d say they are. At the end of the day, football is supposed to be entertainment, and booing should be in the spirit of that. If fans are turning up just to boo there is something wrong, but I don’t think there is anything morally wrong with booing players. You have to take the bad to take the good.

  8. Charles

    August 23, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Seems like this question is asked periodically in every major professional sport, with the same arguments.

    My take is that the players are big boys, and they can take it. They certainly have little problem with the cheers, n’est c’est pas?

    I also take issue with the idea of “Certain supporters” who “feel that if you are only going to boo a player, you may as well stay home as you are not actively backing your team.” Bollocks. A fan booing a player on his team is still supporting his team, and is deriding the play of a given player. It surely doesn’t mean he’s shredding his £60 official replica jersey and finding another team to fancy as his own. Instead, he’s simply rudely stating that this is unacceptable to him as a fan.

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